The buck stops at the Black Hills

The buck stops at the Black Hills
The Black Hills are God's gift to South Dakota.

I was reminded of that fact in a three-day vacation visit to the Hills recently where I caught a $24 trout – and wondered if the local people aren't killing the goose that laid them a golden egg.

We didn't do much in our short-term stay, but it was long enough for me to arrive at my decision that the good folks out there are beginning to chase the buck too much.

First of all, there is the multiplicity of signs of all kinds, inviting the tourist to spend a hard-earned buck to enjoy the man-made attractions, many of which have no relation to the Hills.

The government is equally responsible when you consider the parking monstrosity at Mt. Rushmore. And the Crazy Horse development isn't much better.

When you figure that two octogenarians had to spend $24 for fishing licenses ($29 when you include a small bottle of Power Bait) to catch one trout, something must be wrong.

I've had a burr under my saddle for having to pay $12 for a two-day stay in Custer State Park, too. But what the heck, money is meant to spend for overpriced souvenirs and food. And while I am up on my soapbox, I should decry the cost of gasoline for a trip across the state and back – but I won't!

Now that I've got that off my chest, we did like our time in the Hills, although it was much too short.

We drove the Wildlife Loop and saw lots of bison (we called them buffaloes), deer, turkeys, antelope, mountain sheep and, of course, the ever-present head-in-the-window burros. We even spied a coyote. (Sam, our grandson, mistook some hay bales for buffalo.)

With daughter Jan piloting our car, we drove up the graveled road to the top of Mt. Coolidge. There we climbed the fire-lookout tower to get even higher. Even I made it!

From that vantage point we could see the ravages of forest fires and the pine beetle, but mostly we looked out at Harney Peak, the Needles and miles and miles of the ebony-appearing trees which give the Black Hills its name.

The Garritys – Jan, Pat and Sam – joined us in a two-bedroom resort cabin. But then, all good things (except the fishing) came to an abrupt end, and we had to return to reality.

On the way home we stopped to see Jan and Skee Rasmussen at their ranch south of Belvidere. (Jan is the niece of the late governor, Tom Berry, and my sister Mary's college roommate.)

Skee, who was originally from Beresford and played the French horn when were going to college at State, a long, long time ago, is confined to the couch in the living room at their ranch home, with a bad case of emphysema. He said he got it from the dust of farming in his youth, but cigarettes helped it along.

He can no longer ride his horse; but Phyllis lived out her grandmotherly dream of being astride again. (Jan and Skee's son, Dan, kindly helped her up!)

Sam learned a lesson about the breadth of the state when it dawned on him that, "Gee, they are four hours from the nearest mall!" (Skee's doctor is in Philip, some 70 miles away.)

There's much more to tell about our three-day vacation, but I'm running out of space. Something that South Dakota has plenty of.

© 2007 Robert F. Karolevitz

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